Madam Speaker, we are very much in a second wave of this pandemic. When we look at what people are going through right now, it is fair to say that there is a lot of fear. There is a lot of worry, and there is a lot of uncertainty in people's lives. In this second wave, when people are afraid, worried and uncertain, they need to know that help will be there if they need it. We see the number of cases rising in major cities in Ontario and in Quebec.
Now people are deeply concerned because the numbers are going up. People are scared that their places of work will be closed again. In this precarious situation, when everyone fears for the future, it is essential to provide the help that people need.
It is essential, in the context of a second wave, that people can count on support.
The first act of the Liberal government after proroguing Parliament for nearly two months was going to be cutting the help that families receive. That is what the Liberals told us in the summer. They prorogued Parliament and, while people are afraid and the second wave is upon us, they were going to cut the help that families need to get by.
Instead of $2,000 a month, which is not a luxurious amount, but just enough to get by, the Liberal government was going to cut that by $400 to $1,600 a month. The Liberals were going to force those families who were just getting by to get by with $400 less, despite the fact that we knew before the pandemic that families were just a couple of hundred dollars away from not being able to make ends meet. It was cruel what the Liberal government was going to do.
On one hand, the Liberals were presenting a throne speech with all sorts of promises and words to make life better for people, but those words rang very hollow. They were empty words. The first action of the government was going to be to cut the help that people need, so we fought back.
We fought back and made it very clear for Canadians, who are right now afraid of the future, who are worried about the second wave, that there is no way that we would allow the government to cut the help that families receive. We fought back and we won for Canadians. This was a victory for Canadians. This was a victory to say that we believe in investing in people and we believe that support should be there for families. If there is a situation where jobs have to be put on pause or if there is another shutdown, people need to know that they can count on support.
I was talking to my colleague from Vancouver Island and he was sharing a story of a woman in her 50s who has been a massage therapist for most of her life. She had a successful career, but as a result of COVID-19, she had to shut down. Even after the shutdown, a lot of people are nervous, as we know, about going back to some of the things that they used to do, so she was not seeing a pickup in her business again. She could not go back to work, so she lost everything.
On top of that, the Liberal government timed the throne speech to land just as CERB was ending. There was no time to give that woman any sense of security that there would be help for her. Right now, she is not sure how she is going to pay her rent. She is going to go to her line of credit to see if she can scrounge up enough money to pay rent, and she is waiting every day to find out what is going to happen. She asks if she will get help, but she does not know. I want her to know that we are going to pass this legislation tonight, and she will get that help.
Many people cannot work because of COVID-19. Their job and even their entire sector have ceased to exist. It is in no way the workers' fault.
They are scared. They don't know what they are going to do. They do not know how they are going to make ends meet.
This Liberal government planned the Speech from the Throne just when the CERB was ending. That was not right. I want people who need the CERB to know that we will fight for them. This evening, we will be voting in favour of a bill to continue helping people.
However, that is not the only thing that people worried about. As we all know, there are so many Canadians faced with the impossible choice of going into work sick and risking infecting their colleagues, or staying at home without pay not knowing how to pay their bills at the end of the month. That is an impossible choice made even more impossible by a pandemic. How does it make any sense that a worker be faced with this impossible choice when facing a global pandemic?
Back in May, we fought and obtained a commitment from the Liberal government to bring in paid sick leave for workers. Months later, there was no action. We made another clear demand. We said that if the Liberals wanted our support, they had to bring in paid sick leave for workers in legislation. There should never be any worker making that impossible choice. Any worker who is worried about being infected by COVID-19, who is potentially vulnerable or susceptible to COVID-19, should be able to stay at home and not risk infecting their co-workers and still be able to pay their bills. That is what we did. We fought and we won another massive victory for Canadians and for workers. We want them to know they will never have to make that impossible choice again.
We were able to obtain something that is the first of its kind. This is a historic moment. For the first time in the history of our country, there will be a federal paid sick leave for workers.
We are extremely proud of the work we have done. I want to thank my entire team. Together, we fought for Canadians. For the first time in our country's history, we have obtained paid sick leave. This is incredible. It means that workers do not have to make an impossible choice between going to work sick and staying home not knowing how to make ends meet.
We are there for them, we fought for them and we won for them.
These are two massive victories. We are very excited and honoured that we were able to fight for Canadians and win for Canadians. For New Democrats, it is not enough to put in place a paid sick leave during a pandemic. We believe that this is the first brick in the foundation for a permanent paid sick leave for all Canadians now and forever. That should be a part of our social safety net, not just in a pandemic, but all the time. No worker should live in fear that they cannot take time off from work if they are sick. That is our vision.
We know that there will be a lot of folks talking about how we are going to pay for these programs. It is a fair question. We need to be able to pay for these important investments in people. I am worried because as the deficit increases, we will hear more and more from Conservatives who will say we should cut the help to people in the middle of a pandemic. There will be some Liberals who are going to listen to the words of Conservatives and say that maybe we should cut the help. In fact, that is what the Liberals were about to do. They were convinced by the Conservatives there was too much help given to people and were going to cut that help. What other explanation is there for cutting the help in the middle of a second wave as the Liberals were planning to do but for the fact the New Democrats fought back and stopped them.
The Liberals are falling prey to this ideology, this belief of the Conservatives that when times are tough, let us put the burden, the weight and the pain on working people. That is what Conservatives do.
In some cases, I guess the Liberals listen to that because we are seeing a lot of talk about the deficit. It is important and scary to see a massive deficit, but the way forward is not to put the pain on the woman who lost her entire career in massage therapy on Vancouver Island, the solution is not to put the pain on working-class Canadians who have lost their jobs or on small businesses that are on the brink. Who should pay for this pandemic? The ultra wealthy who made record profits during this pandemic. We are not going to hear this from the Conservatives. We are not going to hear this from the Liberals. They talk about taxing extreme wealth inequality and I challenge anyone on the Liberal bench to explain what that even means. How can the government tax inequality? I know what it can tax. It can tax the ultra rich. It can tax those who make profits in Canada but hide all that profit and pay no taxes in Canada. That is what it can do.
What we are proposing is this. Those who have profited off this pandemic, the ultra rich who have made record profits during this pandemic, the ultra rich who have made billions of dollars in profits, should be the ones who pay for the recovery. If a company makes a profit in Canada, that company should pay taxes in Canada. The reality is there are far too many companies. One is not more than enough, there are so many companies that make a profit here in our country but pay virtually no tax in our country. That is who we should go after. There are companies that make record profits from Canadians in Canada, take that money and put it in an offshore tax haven, hiding it and not paying their fair share. That happens again and again. Recently we saw that the CRA had even taken a company to court for hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes it did not pay. The judge found it had certainly made profits in Canada, that it had taken all those profits and put them into a bank out of Canada and it was legal to do so. That needs to end. We need to stop that. We need to be very clear that the pain of, the cost of and the recovery from this pandemic should not fall on Canadians, on workers or the people who have felt the pain, but on those who have profited. That is what the New Democrats are going to do. We are going to fight to make sure the wealthiest pay their fair share.
While we are dealing with the crisis of COVID–19, it is immediate and we are feeling it right now. People are feeling the pain, they are worried and afraid, so I want them to know that we see them, hear them, know that they are going through difficult times right now and we are going to be there for them. From the beginning of this pandemic, we have fought every step of the way to make sure Canadians were at the centre of everything we did. Whether it was the CERB, the wage subsidy, students, people living with disabilities or seniors, every step of the way we fought for them and I want them to know they can count on us to continue to fight for them.
We know there is not only one crisis we are up against. We are not just facing a COVID–19 crisis. There are so many other crises we are up against. We know the climate crisis is still raging. In my home province of British Columbia and riding of Burnaby South, just a couple of weeks ago the air quality was so bad in the Lower Mainland it was one of the worst air quality ratings of all major cities in the world. While in the classrooms people were being advised to open the windows to let the fresh air in, at the same time they were being told close the windows to prevent the incoming fumes from the forest fires and climate fires. We know the climate crisis is impacting us right now. It is an emergency and we have to do everything we can to fight that crisis as well. That means making the right investments so we create jobs in communities that help us reduce our emissions and make a better quality of life. One example is if we invested in retrofits and building affordable housing, we could create local jobs, make life more affordable and fight the climate crisis. That is what a just recovery would look like.
We also know we are up against a crisis of systemic racism. Just recently, there was an example of an indigenous woman in Quebec, a heart-rending story, who pleaded for help with her dying breath. It was recorded and put on Facebook. She asked for somebody to please help her.
She asked that someone come for her.
She was dying in a hospital bed and the video recorded hospital staff mocking her and insulting her as she was lying and dying. I have said before that systemic racism kills people. It strips people of their dignity and it kills them. This woman died and while she was sick was subjected to racial taunts and systemic discrimination.
I have said again and again that it is not enough to just talk about these things. That woman's life was precious. She did not deserve to die that way. We have to end systemic racism in all its forms, whether it is in health care, in our criminal justice system or in our judicial system. We have to stop talking about it and actually get to the work of ending systemic racism. Enough is enough.
We know we are still faced with an opioid crisis that is taking the lives of so many Canadians. We have to stop our approach to this crisis as a criminal justice problem, as a problem that we can arrest our way out of and, instead, look at it for what it really is: a health care crisis that is going to require compassion and care to save lives.
We know that the impact of COVID-19 disproportionately affected women, so we need a she-covery. We need to be very thoughtful and purposeful with our investments to acknowledge that if women were impacted disproportionately, then we need to have a clear path to remedying that problem. One of the solutions that all of the experts are calling for is massive investment in child care. Therefore, if women, parents in general, but specifically women, choose to go back to work, they do not have to be faced with the impossible reality of not being able to find affordable child care or losing their careers. That should not be a choice that anyone has to make, particularly for women. If we believe in a society where everyone has the right to work and participate, we need to invest in child care.
I will end on this last note.
There is always talk about what should be done about the many crises we are facing, including the climate crisis and the systemic racism crisis, but we have to act. We do not have time to wait before taking action; we have to do it now. Words are no longer enough, and now is the time to act. We have solutions, and we can do something, so I demand that the government take concrete action to address these crises.
We must ask ourselves what the price of inaction is. Unless we take action, inequalities will certainly continue, and the gap between the average person and the very wealthy will only widen. That is why action is needed.
The reality is we need to act. Some people will say we should just let it be and not act. Inaction is a choice. If we do not act, if we do not fight the inequality in a meaningful way, if we do not make the wealthiest pay their fair share, inaction will result in the wealthiest getting even wealthier and everyone else falling behind, and that simply is not a choice New Democrats are going to let happen.
We are going to make sure that this crisis does not create more wealth inequality. We are going to ensure that this crisis does not make life worse for women or working-class people. We are going to fight for them because we know the cost of inaction is too grave. We will fight to make sure we have a more just, resilient and fairer economy, one that works for everyone, one in which everybody has the opportunity to live their best life.